Hurricane hunters show methods behind tracking storms

Published: Updated:

NAPLES, Fla.- With the start of hurricane season less than two weeks away, hurricane experts stopped in Southwest Florida on Friday to show off the tools and technology they use to track the storms.

While most people seek shelter from a hurricane, crews with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Air Force are flying above the storm collecting data.

“We’re basically a dot in the sky,” said Lt. Dave Cowan, pilot for NOAA. “Flying over the top of the hurricane environment for the most part and around the outside to figure out where the storm is going to go and how its being steered.”

The mission can take up to nine hours. Crews on board use two instruments to collect the temperature, dew point, wind speed and pressure.

“That 15 minutes journey from 45,000 feet after it’s launched at the back of the aircraft all the way down to the surface, it collects all that information,” Cowan explained. “It’s extremely important. Without these aircrafts, a hurricane forecast would be pretty great and pretty large in error.”

The information is then sent to the National Hurricane Center in miami.

“Helps us issue more accurate forecasts and warnings,” said Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center. “Emergency managers use that information to make evacuation decisions to save peoples lives and give you other information to keep you safe.”

Researchers say a lot of people have become complacent and may not be prepared for a hurricane. The last major hurricane in Florida was Wilma back in 2005.

“The hurricanes are going to come back, it’s just a matter of time and if it’s this year, you want to be ready in advance because the things you need to do to get ready for the next hurricane are going to be difficult, expensive, if not impossible to do when the hurricane is on your doorstep,” Knabb added.

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